by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It’s one of several color-coded Masses he participates in annually.
At least, that’s what Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita jokingly said of the Red Mass celebrated at Mater Dei-Assumption Church in downtown Topeka on Jan. 24. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the principal celebrant and was joined by concelebrants Bishop Kemme and Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina.
The annual Mass is celebrated within the first few weeks of the Kansas legislative session. This year’s session began Jan. 11.
The term “Red Mass” comes from the color of the liturgical vestments worn by the celebrant and provides an opportunity for Catholics to come together in prayer for all those in public service in the state.
During the homily, Bishop Kemme expressed gratitude to all those serving not only in the Kansas Legislature, but also to all elected leaders, appointed officials, judges, attorneys and staff members at any level of government.
Bishops, he said, are used to wearing red during for the sacrament of confirmation, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit, the same gift “of energizing fire that remains at work in the world today.”
As a bishop, he said, the church teaches he is a successor to the apostles. That simple fact has often led him to reflect on Pentecost.
“On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit ignited the hearts of the apostles and set them on fire,” he said. Before that moment, they were “weak, frail, doubting.”
“In all truthfulness, from a human perspective, they were the most unlikely of men to accomplish all that they did,” the bishop said. But the apostles were able to accomplish so much only because “they opened up their minds and hearts to this fire — not just any fire, [but] the fire of the Holy Spirit.”
“Their apostolic witness,” he added, “is what is needed in our generation.
“We live in challenging times — times in which we are tempted by the evil one, the deceiver, to give up or to give in. But are they any more challenging than the times in which the apostles lived?”
The Gospel read at the Mass — Lk 10:21-24 — should console Catholic Christians, said Bishop Kemme.
“The words of today’s Gospel are consoling,” he said, “because Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit — not to the learned, not to the clever, but to the childlike.
If we remember to always come before the Lord as children, he said, with open hearts, we will then be receptive to “all that Jesus wants to offer us — for he offers us himself.”